At Fun4theDisabled, we believe everyone deserves not only to be included, but celebrated. We create video media and content highlighting opportunities for people with disabilities in the community, connecting them with organizations, programs, and events designed to provide accessibility that is both inclusive and FUN!
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Hi, I’m Vanessa Harris. I’m originally from Chicago, Illinois I spent 15 years in Texas, I moved back here about 10 years ago and I’m staying here. I love Chicago. I love the people here. I love the pizza, the steak. I love the things to do. I have multiple disabilities. I have a bone disorder. I also am a cancer survivor and I have a mental illness, I’m bipolar.
I have had the bone disorders since I was an adolescent. I had a walking job as an engineer, and I won a lot of awards for my work, but I wasn’t thinking about my work. I was thinking about where can I sit down. I was just miserable. And I didn’t enjoy what I was doing. I mean I was miserable but then I became a wheelchair uiser. I didn’t ever have time because I was so busy working and trying to rest when I wasn’t working. I wanted to find things that were fun. For the disabled, they just don’t focus in on that, there’s just not that many things to do, that are fun. About three and a half years ago, I took a documentary class at Chicago’s Hyde Park, Art Center. And I was meeting all these fun people and finding fun things to do. So I thought, I’m going to share it with share what I know with everybody that I can find–Hence fun4thedisabled!
Chicago, fun, cancer survivor, bipolar, wheelchair, disabled, mental illness, bone disorder, Hyde Park
Who We Are
Fun4theDisabled started in 2018 when founder Vanessa A Harris, PE, a retired engineer and oil company executive, took a documentary class at Chicago’s Hyde Park Art Center. During that class, Harris single-handedly produced and distributed her first short film, Color Cast, about Chicago artist Anna Kunz. The film depicted how Kunz designs her art to be inclusive of people with all kinds of abilities. Harris’ experience making the documentary while learning about Kunz’s philosophy of accessibility was illuminating and transformative.
Fun4theDisabled’s revolutionary model remains at the forefront of social justice, investigative journalism and disability advocacy. From collaborating with prominent activists with disabilities to featuring intersectionality and identity in her work, Vanessa and her colleagues in the disability community have championed the values of inclusion, equity, and integrity. Since its founding, Fun4theDisabled has activated its dynamic and diverse community to protest the widespread ableism and systemic discrimination experienced by people with different abilities. Because people with disabilities are often overlooked in mainstream media, Fun4theDisabled presents art, stories, resources, and news created within the disability community itself.
Harris channeled her newfound passion for documentary filmmaking into connecting people with disabilities to organizations and events that would inspire others in the same way she had been. She established a YouTube Channel, website and newsletter, under the brand Fun4theDisabled, ultimately founding a nonprofit, Strategy for Access Foundation NFP, and got to work.
Fun4theDisabled has gone on to produce dozens of videos covering a wide variety of topics that pertain to people with disabilities. Our mission is to create content that connects those with disabilities with the organizations, events, and information that will benefit, entertain, and educate them.
Always accessible, always fun!
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Fun: My name is Vanessa Harris and I have a YouTube channel and a website called fun4thedisabled which talks about resources, people, products,activities, events and organizations for people who have ability challenges, their families and friends so they can enjoy themselves. I am the President and CEO of our non-profit Strategy for Access Foundation NFP/fun4thedisabled.com
Cousin: From childhood, you’ve always wanted to save the world. How does your schooling to be an engineer and fun4thedisabled allow a pathway for you to realize your dreams?
Fun: Well, When I was in high school, I got involved in Earth Day and I realized that I wanted to save the earth. And my father didn’t think that was a good idea. He wanted me to be a doctor. So I compromised with him. I said, Okay, while I am an undergraduate I will be a chemistry major, see what happens. So when I graduated, I applied to environmental engineering school at the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana. He still didn’t like it, but he didn’t forbid it.So, after that, I became an environmental engineer. And I got involved in hazardous waste and wastewater and all sorts of things related to environmental engineering. Then, when I retired from environmental engineering, I decided to set up a YouTube channel called fun4thedisabled. I had an accident and I also had some bone problems, and I became a wheelchair user. And I realized that I needed to continue to do things and not just become inactive. I wanted to come active. And so that’s why I decided to do a YouTube channel called fun4thedisabled.
Cousin: So please tell me about your love of dance.
Fun: Well, I’ve always loved to watch people dancing, and I used to really enjoy watching Alvin Ailey and the Dance Theater of Harlem, and the Joffrey Ballet and all kinds of dance. I like to go to the dance festivals here in Chicago that they have every year. I also got involved in chair dancing. I want to get involved in that some more.
Cousin: Tell me about chair dancing.
Fun: I learned how to do Zumba dancing in my wheelchair to all kinds of music.
Cousin: Is there any more about that that you can share with us? I can’t even imagine what chair dancing is.
Fun: Well, with chair dancing you just you just move your body and you get involved in the music. You move your arms, your legs, your head, you’re moving from side to side and it’s just enjoyable and I get to dance with other people that way.
Cousin: That is awesome. Wheelchairs do not confine people. So please tell me, what benefit or what doors have opened for you as result from creating and developing fun4thedisabled?
Fun: Well, I’ve been starting to go to a lot of activities and workshops and programs and finding out about a lot of products and people who have ability problems. Yesterday I went to a workshop called Lights! Camera!Access! 2.0 here in Chicago. We had to apply to get into that program but also people who want to get involved in the media. There were people there from the news, advertising, from cinematography, and documentaries. There were people there that were brand new to the industry as well as those that had been in it forever.They had interviews and workshops,so you were able to figure out how to disclose your abilities. Then people will be able to know what you can do and what limitations you have so that it can be worked out. Also, there were people there that were interviewing us to get jobs in the industry. They were giving pointers on how to structure your resume. It was a really very interesting session.
Cousin: That sounds interesting.
Fun: Yeah. And then two weeks ago I went to Access Chicago which is about products and services for people who have ability problems here in Chicago. And then back in June I went to the Abilities Expo which is Schaumburg, Illinois. It is held every year and is also another place to find out about people, products and activities for people who are disabled.I got to do rock climbing. I got involved in petting miniature horses. I rode a bike. I might get a bike next year. So, I’m finding out that there’s lots of things for people who have ability problems can actually do. I’m going to be interviewing a lot of those people that I met for my YouTube channel.
Cousin: So, you mentioned you are considering getting a service animal. What kind of service animal are you considering?
Fun: I love dogs!
Cousin: And what kind of service would that dog provide for you?
Fun: Well he would calm me down.
Cousin: So, you have a little friend. How did you acquire this little friend?
Fun: At the Abilities Expo there was an exhibitor–Disability Awareness Month in Dekalb, that had disabled people who made all these products and pieces of artwork. So, I found this stuffed animal. I named him Tigger, he’s my tiger. I bought him there and I got him for a song and I really love them and that’s why keeps me company here in my office.
Cousin: He’s adorable.
Cousin: Well Tigger, thank you for being here. And Vanessa, thank you for being here. Thank you for sharing yourself with us and thank you for the contribution that you are and the contribution that you’re making through fun4thedisabled. Thank you.
Fun: Thanks, cousin.
Cousin: My pleasure.
Strategy for Access Foundation NFP
Strategy for Access Foundation NFP received a charter from the state of Illinois as a nonprofit and authorization from the Internal Revenue Service as a 501 (c)3 in June of 2019. We are a FOR-PURPOSE organization dedicated to producing media that benefits any and all people living with disabilities, primarily through its website, Fun4theDisabled.
As the parent nonprofit for Fun4theDisabled’s creative work, Strategy for Access manages the legal and funding endeavors so that Fun4theDisabled can focus on making videos that are fun.
For any questions regarding Strategy for Access, its board, its operations, or collaborating with us on sponsorships and funding, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Board of Directors
Vanessa A. Harris, P.E.
President and Executive Director
Strategy for Access Foundation NFP
Richard H. Harris, PhD
Secretary of the Board
Genesis Social Service
Associate Dean, Grinnell College
Special Ed. Instructor, Rise School
Interested in Joining Our Board?
We ask all prospective board members to complete an application for a seat on the Strategy for Access Board of Directors.
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Thank You to Our Supporters
Memorials & Honorariums
Memorial and celebratory gifts to Fun4TheDisabled can can honor and commemorate someone special, celebrate an anniversary, graduation, wedding, recovery, birthday or retirement.
The following individuals have been honored or memorialized through generous donations to Fun4TheDisabled.
In honor of Sophia Jean, July 2021
In honor of Ida Russo & Dolores O'Rourke, June 2021
In honor of Ivan T., October 2020
In Memoriam Gifts
In memory of Lisa A. Stepanian, April 2022
In memory of Gloria and Jesse Hébert Sr., December 2021
In memory of Robert G. Johnson, August 2021